No More Thoughts and Prayers

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Congress, Democratic Party, firearms

Update: “Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ended a blockade of the Senate floor after nearly 15 hours Thursday, announcing Republican leaders had agreed to hold votes on Democrat-backed measures to expand background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from acquiring guns.” (WaPo)

***

Some House Democrats walked out on the House’s “moment of silence” for the victims of Orlando, and as soon as the moment had passed some remaining Democrats shouted their frustration at speaker Paul “granny starver” Ryan.

House Democrats staged protests Monday evening in response to a moment of silence on the floor to remember the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest in American history.

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) led the House in the moment of silence in honor of the 49 people who died in the massacre on Sunday, the chamber erupted into shouting as Democrats expressed frustration over the lack of votes to restrict guns after repeated mass shootings.

“Where’s the bill?” Democrats chanted.

Today, Senate Dems are holding an old-fashioned filibuster on gun control.

Led by the senators who represent Newtown, Connecticut — where a gunman fatally shot 26 people, including 20 children, in 2012 — Democrats took control of the Senate floor Wednesday and vowed to keep talking until lawmakers start doing something about gun violence.

“Newtown is still putting itself back together, probably will be for a long time,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who launched the filibuster-style takeover, declaring it was time for the Senate to do something about gun violence beyond the usual ineffective debates.

He said lawmakers could not go about business as usual after a mass killing at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday claimed 49 victims.

“This is a different moment today than it was at the end of last week,” Murphy said. “There is a newfound imperative for this body to find a way to come together and take action, to try to do our part to stem this epidemic of gun violence and in particular this epidemic of mass shootings.”

This filibuster is still going on as I write this.  There’s a live feed at Wired.  It’s several hours of not-silence. A number of Democrats have participated; I don’t have a list of them yet.

So credit where credit is due. I hope this is just a beginning.

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Personal/Political/Whatever

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firearms

It turns out that the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was a regular toxic stew of Personal Issues. He wasn’t so much a jihadist as someone who poured his excessive rage into a fantasy of jihad. The Washington Post reports that in the past he had falsely claimed connections to many Islamic terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. He seems not to have understood that Sunni and Shiite militants don’t hang out on the same corner.

The real bombshell is that it turns out Mateen was gay himself, according to people who had known him a long time. He’d even been a regular at the nightclub he attacked. And he had a father who is a Taliban supporter.  Talk about raging internal conflict, huh?

He did spend a lot of time on jihadist websites, according to some sources, which no doubt added more bite to the hot pepper gumbo of loathing sluicing around in his id. Other than that, he had about as much connection to ISIS as to the Brownie Scouts.  It seems debatable to me whether the shooting itself was an act of “terrorism” as much as one more mass shooting by a poorly socialized male.

So just about everybody’s initial reactions to the shooting were wrong. Donald Trump’s reaction was, of course, colossally and pathologically wrong.  After congratulating himself for his subtle and penetrating insight that Muslims Are Bad, he again called on banning Muslim immigrants — how that would have stopped American-born Mateen is not clear — and he blamed American Muslims for not doing enough to stop Mateen.

Yes, let’s inflame more young men with Issues into hating America. Just what we need.

He also accused President Obama of secreting working with ISIS. The American Psychiatric Association may need to publish an ancillary issue of the DSM just to deal with All the Stuff That’s Wrong With Trump.

I must give credit to Hillary Clinton for saying what needed to be said — we stand with LBGT people, we must not demonize Islam, we need better gun control. Sanders reiterated his support for a ban on semiautomatic weapons. I understand the libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, doesn’t want us to “politicize” the issue, which once again shows us that libertarianism is massively pointless. It’s our “politicization” of guns as protected by the political 2nd Amendment that’s put us in this fix.

I also want to note that the word “terrorism” has lost any meaning. It appears Mateen was motivated primarily by his massive Personal Issues; jihadist rhetoric was a supporting factor only, and there were no operational ties whatsoever to ISIS or any other terrorist organization. Yet all sorts of knee-jerk analysis labeled the Orlando shooting as “Islamic terrorism.” Meanwhile, Dylann Roof, who appears to have been an average soft-headed kid who was radicalized by white supremacist websites and literature into killing nine people in Charleston, is not a “terrorist.” Why not? Well, of course, we know why, but that reason is just a reflection of our own biases, isn’t it?

The truth is, putting the Orlando shooting into a “terrorist” or “not terrorist” box doesn’t do anything to help us understand it. Nor does it help to label Mateen “mentally ill” because his wife claimed he was bipolar; that appears to have been her own unprofessional diagnosis. Nor does it help to blame passages in the Quran or religion generally. Let us instead acknowledge that human beings are infinitely complicated, and that our lives and personalities are a mix of internal and external factors so tangled it can’t be said where one ends and another begins.

All I know is,

1. Hating people because of who they are never helps anybody.

2. We’re way past needing gun control. Are we ready to amend the 2nd Amendment yet? I know I am.

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Another Day, Another Atrocity

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Obama Administration

I was out all day and am just catching up on the news of the mass shooting in Orlando. So terribly sad.

I understand the current thinking is that the gunman was a “lone wolf,” born in the U.S. of Afghan parents, who talked about fighting for ISIL/Daesh but had no known ties to it. He’d been investigated by the FBI twice and wasn’t connected to any terrorist organization. He had legally bought guns in the past couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, a guy identified as James Howell of Indiana was detained in Los Angeles with a car full of guns and explosives, allegedly intending to use them at a Gay Pride event.

Meanwhile, all over social media, people are posting every video they can find of Bible-thumping preachers calling for gays to be put to death.

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Off the Lawn, Off the Boat, Out of the Party

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

Matt Taibbi gives me some assurance that I’m not crazy.

This was no ordinary primary race, not a contest between warring factions within the party establishment, á la Obama-Clinton in ’08 or even Gore-Bradley in ’00. This was a barely quelled revolt that ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party, especially since the Vote of No Confidence overwhelmingly came from the next generation of voters.

Taibbi goes on to quote various pundits who are still reading from the standard post-nomination script.

The classic example was James Hohmann’s piece in the Washington Post, titled, “Primary wins show Hillary Clinton needs the left less than pro-Sanders liberals think.”

Hohmann’s thesis was that the “scope and scale” of Clinton’s wins Tuesday night meant mainstream Democrats could now safely return to their traditional We won, screw you posture of “minor concessions” toward the “liberal base.”

I wrote yesterday that Clinton supporters are angry and frustrated with Sanders for not following the proper script. He’s supposed to drop out now and endorse Clinton! She won!

In short, they’re like people enjoying a dinner party in a burning house, or maybe the Titanic.

If they had any brains, Beltway Dems and their clucky sycophants like Capeheart would not be celebrating this week. They ought to be horrified to their marrow that the all-powerful Democratic Party ended up having to dig in for a furious rally to stave off a quirky Vermont socialist almost completely lacking big-dollar donors or institutional support.

They should be freaked out, cowed and relieved, like the Golden State Warriors would be if they needed a big fourth quarter to pull out a win against Valdosta State.

But to read the papers in the last two days is to imagine that we didn’t just spend a year witnessing the growth of a massive grassroots movement fueled by loathing of the party establishment, with some correspondingly severe numerical contractions in the turnout department (though she won, for instance, Clinton received 30 percent fewer votes in California this year versus 2008, and 13 percent fewer in New Jersey).

I’ve said this before, too.

People are sick of being thought of as faraway annoyances who only get whatever policy scraps are left over after pols have finished servicing the donors they hang out with at Redskins games.

Democratic voters tried to express these frustrations through the Sanders campaign, but the party leaders have been and probably will continue to be too dense to listen. Instead, they’ll convince themselves that, as Hohmann’s Post article put it, Hillary’s latest victories mean any “pressure” they might have felt to change has now been “ameliorated.”

And this:

The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.

This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.

But they won’t do that, because they don’t see what just happened this year as a message rising up from millions of voters.

I’ve been saying all along that the Dems need Sanders and his supporters more than Sanders and his supporters need the Democrats. I’m not talking about winning the November election here, although that might be part of it. I’m talking about the even more fundamental question of why a person should be loyal to a political party, support it, and vote for its candidates even when you’re not crazy about them.  As I also keep saying, the percentage of Americans who self-identify with one party or another is at an all-time low. Although I understand a lot of people have registered as Democrats this year, are those people who are going to stay Democrats? Or are they people who wanted to vote for Sanders in a primary, or who want to vote against Trump in November? Do they have any real interest in the Democratic Party, as a party?

See above about Clinton getting 30 percent fewer votes in California this year than in 2008.  See also Dear Democrats: Please Face Reality.

Instead of offering a competing vision for the future or debating policy ideas, Clinton ran against Sanders by dismissing him. But perhaps that’s the only way she could beat him, with “loyal Democrat” dog whistles and painting her opposition as racist and sexist white guys, which was never true.

One constant narrative throughout the primaries has been that Sanders just can’t gain the support of women or people of color, and that his supporters are overwhelmingly white males who back him for the simple reason that he is a man (e.g. Walsh’s “angry white male cult”). But again, this is complete hogwash. Sanders has actually done better with young women than young men — a USA Today poll taken in the midst of the primaries found that Millennial women backed “Sanders by a jaw-dropping 61%-30% while the divide among Millennial men is much closer, 48%-44%.” Similarly, while Clinton has dominated with African American voters overall, young black and Hispanic voters have a more favorable opinion of Sanders than Clinton, according to a Gallup survey from May. Indeed, Sanders is viewed even more favorably among black millennials than white millennials. The survey also found that Sanders is viewed more favorably among millennial women than millennial men, and that millennials were the most left-leaning generation.

It’s one thing to smear your opponent, but when you smear your opponent by smearing his supporters, don’t expect those supporters to not notice, or to forgive you. Still quoting Conor Lynch at Salon,

Roughly a year after launching her campaign, Hillary Clinton has now locked up the Democratic nomination. But her campaign and the DNC establishment have also done a great job at alienating young people and the left.

Partisans have been reluctant to acknowledge that a formidable progressive movement fueled by millennials could challenge the neoliberal status quo in the coming years, and have instead tried to tarnish the reputation of the entire Sanders movement. But Sanders isn’t going to fight until the convention because of “sexism,” as Clintonites have started postulating, but because of politics and ideas; his entire campaign has been about combating “establishment politics” and “establishment economics,” which, unfortunately, Clinton epitomizes. Of course, partisans don’t want to debate ideas or address inconvenient truths, like the party’s close ties to Wall Street and corporate America. It’s much easier to make generalizations and accuse everyone who disagrees with you of trolling or harassment.

Like the guy I quoted yesterday said, “Hillary people seem to have become (and maybe always were) more about keeping Bernie people off the boat than they are about rowing past Trump.” So, yeah, the Dems just shoved a whole generation of people off the boat. It remains to be seen how many of those young people will continue to try to reform the party, or how many just quit in disgust.

IMO the Dems will have a fight on their hands, but probably not so much from Donald Trump. Donald Trump is nothing but an ego with bad hair. His “business success” reminds me of an old saying — the easiest way to make a small fortune is to inherit a large fortune.  I keep reading articles about how shrewd he is and that he knows what he’s doing, but I don’t think so. I think he’s gotten into something that’s way over his bizarrely coifed head.  Especially once we get past the conventions I think his campaign will be a train wreck.  We’ll see. He’ll probably get more electoral college votes than he ought to based on his total unsuitability to be POTUS, but I still think she’s going to win.

I think the real fight will come later, and it will be a fight the Democrats, apparently, do not expect. It will be a fight to win back the generation of voters they just kicked off the boat.

Just as one more example of how oblivious they are, I was reading this morning that the Democrats want very much to get their hands on Sanders’s email list.

Bernie Sanders has built more than just a following. He’s amassed the mother of all email lists. Some estimate it contains more than 5 million contacts, which is big, even by presidential standards. That database has allowed Sanders to raise thousands of dollars at the click of a button. …

…The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment about the future of the supporter list. Speculation abounds. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reidreportedly asked the campaign last month to deploy the list to assist Democrats in Senate races, but was rebuffed by Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager. Liberal groups have said they’d love to take a peek at the Vermont senator’s data.

People affiliated with the campaign have pushed back. On Monday, a fundraiser manager for Revolution Messaging, the D.C.-based firm Sanders has employed to manage his campaign data, tweeted that the senator’s list was like King Arthur’s Excalibur: “Lots of people might think they can use it, but it takes someone special for it to work.”

I think all the Dem establishment could raise from that list are a bunch of FUs. If they don’t know that, they’re not smelling the smoke or seeing the iceberg or whatever metaphor works for you.

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The Coming Together Thing

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

Andrew O’Hehir (emphasis added):

For many Sanders supporters, and not just the younger generation for whom his campaign was a political awakening, deferring the dream of “political revolution” — or at least major reform, which is really what the Vermont senator has proposed — will be exquisitely painful. But Hillary Clinton herself is not the problem, although she clearly stands for and stands with the Democratic establishment Sanders sought to overthrow. …

… Clinton is correct that the primary race between her and Obama in 2008 was closer than this one, and that she trailed by fewer pledged delegates (about half her current margin over Sanders) when she threw in the towel in June of that year. She pronounced it “perplexing” that Sanders might push on to the convention in the face of obvious defeat, and that he might yet attempt to sway superdelegates to defy the decision of a clear majority of the Democratic electorate. “That’s never happened before,” she said, “and it’s not going to happen this year.” All that is true, but what it tells me is that Clinton fails to understand the point of the Sanders campaign or, more likely, is deliberately choosing to ignore it. …

… Bernie Sanders, who came closer to pulling off an internal coup within the Democratic Party than anyone would have believed possible a year ago, needs to push on just a little longer, in order to bring his own bargain with his supporters to a conclusion.

Sanders needs to assure his followers that this race was not like the 2008 race, or any other in recent memory, and that if it ends with an inevitable defeat and an inevitable truce, it does not end in capitulation. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 victory is not the victory of Clintonism. If the fight for the future of the Democratic Party is suspended for the moment, at least at the presidential level, it is not over. Indeed, it has barely begun. The final stage of the Hillary Clinton bargain lies not in surrender, or in accepting a return to politics as usual. It lies in the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.

Clinton supporters want very much to believe that this race really is like the 2008 race, except that Clinton won this time. And they want the old man who lost to capitulate and throw his wholehearted endorsement behind Clinton, the way Clinton eventually supported Obama, albeit probably not before she pried a promise of a cabinet position out of Obama. A man’s capitulation is a vital part of the payback scenario they expect and dearly desire. They are absolutely clueless why he can’t play out the standard script without betraying both his principles and his supporters. O’Hehir gets it, and explains it about as well as anyone can.

This primary campaign wasn’t just about two people competing for a presidential nomination. It wasn’t nearly that simple. This is something that a lot of Sanders supporters need to understand also, especially the ones calling for Sanders to run as a third party or independent candidate, which would accomplish nothing. This campaign was not so much about making Bernie Sanders the POTUS but more about “retaking the party from the pro-corporate center-right forces that have controlled it since the Bill Clinton era,” in O’Hehir’s words.

Sanders was just the vehicle to carry that demand forward. The demand itself has not been retracted.

Those of us who have watched beltway Democrats betray one principle after another for the sake of hanging on to their cozy niches in the Washington political power grid are damn tired of it and want it to stop. Last October Matt Yglesias wrote that the Democrats had grown smug and complacent.

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. …

… Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren’t even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don’t even admit that they exist. … The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor.

Yglesias goes on to explain that the Dems have no actual plan for taking back states and appear to be perfectly content for having achieved what seems to be a lock on the White House, thanks to the Electoral College map. And yes, I still expect Hillary Clinton to win in November.  What might happen in 2020 is too far away to speculate about.

As I’ve been writing in many recent post, voter demographics are telling us that most voters under the age of 50 — and a whopping 80-something-percent majority under the age of 30 — are nearly frantic to pry the smug, complacent Dem establishment out of the Democratic party so that it might wake up and get a clue. Although there are some great individual Dems, the party itself has become a repository for soulless apparatchiks who appear to run as Democrats more out of habit than conviction. It’s been a very long time since working-class people especially could count on the party, as a party, to stand up for and actually work for policies they need. They did manage to pass the ACA, yes, but much of the demand for watering down the original bill — which was itself far short of what is really needed — came not just from Republicans but from Blue Dog Democrats.

In short, we need Dems with fire in the belly. Instead, mostly their bellies are full of foie gras and lobster, or whatever they serve at $353,400 fundraiser dinners.

In this primary season, instead of engaging with the concerns of Sanders supporters, “Hillary people seem to have become (and maybe always were) more about keeping Bernie people off the boat than they are about rowing past Trump,” wrote a guy on Facebook.

Establishment/Clinton Democrats seem like the party of Eisenhower with a dash of Nixon and a sprinkle of identity politics now — part careerist apparatchik, part hippie puncher, part Prius owner with a rainbow bumpersticker — who apparently believe that a ‘sore winner’ vibe and yelling at the kids to get offa their lawn is the righteous, best way forward.

That’s definitely the vibe I’ve picked up from the Clinton people all along. They haven’t so much been disagreeing with Sanders, inasmuch as they are able to accurately address his concerns at all, which they don’t. They simply dismiss those concerns as somehow having been generated by Karl Rove. From the beginning they’ve been outraged he’s challenged Her Majesty at all.

Clinton is definitely the candidate for complacent people who have given up on the idea that Washington can accomplish anything useful (see “The Can’t-Do Nation“). They rarely express hope of Clinton doing anything in particular except appointing pro-Roe v. Wade Supreme Court justices, which is something I want, too.  But too many of them seem to just want payback — for the endless Whitewater investigations, for Bush v. Gore, for the time in 1974 they lost a job to a less-qualified man.

Getting back to capitulation — Sanders absolutely cannot just stand up next to Clinton at the convention and throw his support behind her. At the core of it this was not about the two of them competing for a job. It was not about the individual Bernie Sanders versus the individual Hillary Clinton. It’s about a schism on the Left that’s still getting wider, and the fight to resolve what’s wrong with the Democrats has to continue.  For Sanders to wholeheartedly endorse Clinton would be surrendering that fight, which has barely begun.

At some point I expect him to suspend his campaign and tell his supporters that it’s better for the nation to have Clinton in the White House than Trump. I believe he’s said as much a couple of times already. But if they want him to give a speech puffing up Clinton as a great future president and as just what the nation needs, no. He cannot do that. It would betray everything the campaign was about.

O’Hehir is right about “the resolution to stop fighting now, in order to fight on another day.” I keep hearing about vast hoards of Sanders supporters who plan to protest in Philadelphia and demand he be given the nomination, which is a stupid demand. That battle is over.

Many of these people sincerely believe the election results in many primaries were not honest, and some of them have some pretty good arguments back that up. But by the time these claims are thoroughly investigated and proved (or disproved), Cliinton will be giving her first State of the Union address. Possibly her second or third. As we learned in 2000 and 2001, recounts after the inauguration don’t count.

It may be that Hillary Clinton will turn into a great, visionary, progressive POTUS, but I see no indication she’s got it in her (see Jim Hightower on that point).  And she’ll get no passes from the Left just because she’s got a “D” after her name. If Clinton supporters are still looking for the fairy-tell ending that rights all the the ways they feel wronged, they’re going to be disappointed.

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What I Just Posted on Facebook

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Obama Administration

Sanders supporters: By all means, keep fighting for what you believe in. However, take care to fight smart and not stupid.

As I write this, with 92 percent of precincts reporting in California, Clinton leads with 56 to 43 percent of the vote. This is seriously bad. This result pretty much erases any chance Sanders might have had at going into the convention with serious leverage. I do not doubt that there are all kinds of reasons (such as the “no party preference” ballots) why this result does not accurately reflect the will of voters. But here in Real World Land those numbers are all that matter.

The reality is that at the DNC convention Hillary Clinton will officially receive the nomination on the first ballot, and that will probably be one of the first things the convention does. There will be no “contesting.” Sanders simply does not have the leverage to contest anything. Had he won California, or had the vote even been a close second, things might have been different. But they aren’t.

(Note that massive street demonstrations in Philadelphia won’t give Sanders the nomination, either. And if such demonstrations turn violent, they will discredit Sanders and any movement he might lead going forward. I’m not saying don’t go to Philadelphia to demonstrate, but I am saying that if you go, be disciplined and be careful.)

In fact, he probably has more leverage right now than he will later, since the Democratic Party will be just about frantic to get him out of the way asap. The convention is supposed to be a celebratory rah-rah occasion. Clinton will want to be choosing and announcing her running mate and otherwise be getting ready for the big party. So if there’s anything he still hopes to achieve regarding the party platform, convention speakers, or senate committee assignments, IMO he’s got a better shot at getting those things now than he will in July.

So if he does announce that he is suspending his campaign later this week, or after the final primary (DC) next Tuesday, I hope you don’t think less of him.

I’ve also been saying all along that Sanders is not going to run as a third party or independent candidate in November. Because of the way we run elections, such candidacies have no hope of winning and have never accomplished anything but generate meaningless publicity for the candidate. Such an attempt is a prime example of stupid, IMO.

Of course, I don’t know the man personally, and he may continue to campaign, and he may choose to run third party, but IMO those would be terrible misjudgments on his part and would tell me he’s not as smart as I think he is. But we’ll see.

In any event, I urge everyone to get involved in the Brand New Congress movement that some former Sanders staffers started, aimed at having a big impact on the 2018 midterms. Bernie will still be in the Senate, where he can continue to provide leadership. Don’t think of this presidential campaign as a failure, but as a start.

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Superdelegates in the Twilight Zone

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

Yesterday the Associated Press decided to scoop the world and declared that Hillary Clinton had crossed the critical 2,383 delegate threshold needed to “clinch” the Democratic Party nomination.  This must have been disorienting for people who realized no votes were cast yesterday, but whatever.  The AP came to this conclusion by counting the superdelegates for Clinton, even though they don’t vote officially until the convention and are free to change their minds. The superdelegate count keeps shifting, as does the pledged delegate count, but at some point yesterday the stars aligned and the threshold was crossed.

In theory, it could cross back again. I keep expecting to hear Rod Serling doing the voice over —

Many people are angry about this, as it could potentially suppress the votes in the primaries today and change the outcome, and not just of the presidential primaries. Thereisnospoon writes at Daily Kos,

At a practical level, California’s terrible top-two “jungle” primary means that a high turnout is crucial to the success of Democrats downballot. In California’s Dem-majority 24th district where I live, turnout among the overwhelmingly Sanders-supporting college students at UC Santa Barbara could make the difference between whether a Democrat even advances into the November general election or whether we will be forced to choose between two Republicans. Calling the race for Clinton in advance of the primary doesn’t just hurt Democrats at the hyperlocal level: it might actually mean fewer Democrats in Congress after November, too.

Just how did our election system get this screwed up? Well, let’s go on …

Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but I don’t recall that in 2008 presumed superdelegate votes were reported in media as delegate “wins” to the extent they have been in this election. There was a lot of arguing and grumbling about superdelegates, yes, but as I remember the superdelegates tallies were more often kept in the background, separated from the pledged delegate count. And the superdelegate votes changed as the primary wore on, anyway. But in the current primaries, there have been times I’ve had to do quite a bit of searching to find current pledged delegate numbers that did not include superdelegates as part of the tally.

I found this history of Democratic Party superdelegates on the Bill Moyers site yesterday, and it’s very much worth reading. Among other things, it says,

The corporate media’s early inclusion of the superdelegates in the delegate count created the impression of an inevitable Clinton nomination. Seventy-three percent of superdelegates — 520 of the 712 — have pledged their support to the former secretary of state, but superdelegates are free to change their minds any time before the Democratic National Convention in July.

By Feb. 20, when only three states had held nominating contests, such reporting had conferred on the Clinton campaign an aura of insurmountability, leading some voters to question whether their votes truly mattered. Even as Sanders won a string of contests at the end of March to narrow Clinton’s lead, superdelegates in those states stubbornly clung to Clinton. Despite the second-biggest victory ever in a contested New Hampshire Democratic primary, Sanders was credited with the same number of total delegates as Clinton, thanks to superdelegates.

This has rubbed many the wrong way. …

… The attitude of Democratic Party bigwigs hasn’t helped. When a Sanders supporter criticized superdelegate Howard Dean for sticking with Clinton despite Sanders’ landslide victory in Vermont, Dean tweeted back: “Superdelegates don’t ‘represent the people’ … I’ll do what I think is right for the country.”

The author of the superdelegate history, Branko Marcetic, says that the  superdelegates were the creation of a commission that met in 1981 and 1982. Their purpose was to keep the primary process from being unduly influenced by single-issue factions, so that the Dems weren’t stuck with a nominee who didn’t appeal to general election voters. They had Jimmy Carter in mind as such a nominee.

The very democracy of the primary process appears to have made the commission members nervous. They felt they had to give party elites — elected officials and high-ranking party members — a greater hand in choosing candidates, or as Xandra Kayden, a member of the Center for Democratic Policy (now Center for National Policy), put it, the power to “to regain control of the nomination.”

This was partly couched in a belief in elites’ superior judgment. “They bring to the convention a certain political acumen, a certain political antenna,” explained Connecticut state Sen. Dick Schneller, a liberal member of the party. …

… “Our decisions will make the convention more representative of the mainstream of the party,” the commission’s chair, North Carolina Gov. James Hunt, told the press shortly before the commission finished. “We lost a lot of people in the last few years. Our actions should make mainstream Democrats feel better.”

And how did that work out for ya?

The Democrats’ new rules were put to the test during the 1984 election, when Mondale, the superdelegates’ overwhelming choice, received the worst drubbing in the history of the Democratic Party. If the commission’s most important criterion for success was winning, the superdelegate strategy had failed.

It’s often pointed out that the superdelegates have yet to go against popular will, which begs the question why have them at all? By now it should be obvious that if they did ever go against popular will, all hell would break loose.

But the other flaw in this system is that it assumes party insiders really do understand what the “mainstream” wants. Seems to me this election has revealed that the Dems are dealing with two mainstreams, largely separated by age, and the Dem establishment is completely and totally out of touch with the younger mainstream voter.

And from what I’ve read, currently the pivotal number is “50,” which is not that young. The Los Angeles Times reported a few days ago that in California,

Among those under 50, Sanders held a 27-point advantage among all Democratic primary voters and a 21-point edge among likely voters. Among those over 50, Clinton led by 32 points among both groups.

Clinton would have more easily defied Sanders’ onslaught if his inroads among the young had been limited to white voters, as happened in some of the states that voted earlier in the process. But he has expanded his reach in California; his diverse crowds here were reflected in the poll.

Among Latino voters under age 50, Sanders led, 58%-31%, not much different from his 62%-27% lead among younger white voters. The views of other ethnic and racial groups were too small to break out separately by age, but when all younger minority voters were considered, Sanders led, 59%-32%.

On the other side of the age divide, Clinton’s lead was no less impressive. She led by 56%-32% among white voters over 50, 69%-16% among older Latinos and 64%-20% among older minority voters.

The same generational splits apply to men and women, this article says.  And in this primary season the Clinton campaign and the Dem establishment have catered entirely to older voters and dismissed younger ones. See also this.

This is not a smart strategy for building toward the future.

As I’ve written earlier, the party power brokers and insiders had determined Clinton would be the nominee more than a year ago. The only way Sanders or anyone else could have stopped her is by winning a decisively greater number of pledged delegates, and Sanders hasn’t done that. But in winning as she has, Clinton has burned bridges the Dems will have to rebuild in the future if they want to survive as a party.

The Democrats may assume the hard feelings will go away when Clinton wins in November — I expect her to win, anyway. But I don’t think they will. The 29-and-younger voters in particular are being taught that the Democratic Party doesn’t care what they think. These are the up-and-coming liberal voters making up the “emerging Democratic majority” that is supposed to rescue the Democratic Party from Republican dominance. This group has little representation among the superdelegates, apparently.

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Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

Hillary Clinton gave a foreign policy speech in San Diego a couple of days ago that got some good reviews. Indeed, her supporters seem to think it was the greatest  foreign policy speech since Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” address, assuming they know about Churchill and the Iron Curtain.

The speech largely consisted of calling out Donald Trump for being an idiot.  In her next appearance she’s going to go for broke and shoot some fish in a barrel.

If you read the speech, most of it is pretty banal.  Here’s a representative sample:

Trump says over and over again, “The world is laughing at us.” He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.

The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.

I’m so done with the American exceptionalism rhetoric. Rah-rah doesn’t fix the potholes.

I can’t argue with anything she says about Trump. It’s when she wanders into her own ideas that she gets into trouble.

Steve Chapman wrote for the Chicago Tribune,

Hillary Clinton has been wrong on one foreign policy issue after another, from the war in Iraq to the war in Libya to the war in Syria. She is secretive, averse to transparency, habitually deceptive and arguably corrupt. She is a risk to lead us into another messy conflict.

Donald Trump has said some things that don’t sound bad. He recognizes the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya as mistakes. He vows to refrain from nation-building. He says he’d make our allies do more to defend themselves.

So let me be clear: If I had only these two choices of whom to be in charge of U.S. foreign policy for the next four years — or five minutes — I would pick Clinton in a heartbeat.

Clinton is a bad option, in the way that Salisbury steak at a roadside diner is a bad option. Trump, however, resembles a tuna sandwich left out on the counter for days: definitely harmful and possibly fatal.

Yeah, pretty much sums it up.

I also like these comments by Ian Bremmer in Time:

First, her remarks were intended for the foreign policy establishment, the people who care about foreign policy details and America’s role in the world. These are not the people she needs to reach. She must speak directly to those who feel globalization has stolen their livelihoods and don’t see why Americans must carry heavier and more expensive burdens than others do. Some of those people are persuadable.

Second, she spent too much presenting herself as the plausible alternative to disaster. Her own foreign policy record is not sterling. She was an active secretary of state, but President Obama didn’t deliver his finest foreign policy accomplishments—striking the Iran nuclear deal, lifting the embargo against Cuba, negotiating the Transpacific Partnership—until Clinton had moved on. She deserves credit for helping to bring Iran to the nuclear negotiating table, but it fell to her successor to complete the deal. Her attempt to “reset” relations with Russia was a farce from start to finish. The “pivot to Asia” and agreement on the Transpacific Partnership were her biggest successes, but she has backed away from both while running for president. In short, Clinton is long on foreign policy experience, but short on foreign policy successes.

But she’s so qualified! And she has all those accomplishments (that few can name if you put them on the spot to name any)!

Patrick Smith wrote at Salon:

Clinton’s people advised the press beforehand that, major or not, this presentation was not intended to break any new ground—no new positions, no new policy initiatives or ideas. This hardly had to be explained, of course: Hillary Clinton has no new ideas on American foreign policy. That is not her product. Clinton sells continuity, more of the same only more of it because it is so good. In continuity we are supposed to find safety, certainty and security.

I do not find any such things in the idea that our foreign policy cliques under a Clinton administration will simply keep doing what they have been doing for many decades. The thought frightens me, and I do not say this for mere effect. In my estimation, and it is no more than that, the world is approaching maximum tolerance of America’s post–Cold War insistence on hegemony. As regular readers will know, this is why I stand among those who consider Clinton’s foreign policy thinking, borne out by the record, the most dangerous thing about her. And there are many of us, by the evidence.

The critique that most needs to be read, though, is by William Astore at Huffpo.  (Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, blogs at Bracing Views.) Really, read the whole thing. Here are the juiciest bits:

1. The speech featured the usual American exceptionalism, the usual fear that if America withdraws from the world stage, chaos will result.  There was no sense that America’s wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. have greatly contributed to that chaos.  …

2.  Hillary mentioned we’re electing “our” next commander-in-chief.  No, we’re not.  The president is a public servant, not “our” commander-in-chief.  The president serves as the civilian commander-in-chief of the military, and the military alone.

3.  Hillary mentioned the US has a “moral obligation” to defend Israel.  Why is this?  Sure, Israel is an American ally, but why is Israel the one country we’re “morally” obligated to defend? There’s only one country we’re morally obligated to defend, and that’s the USA, assuming our government is actually honoring the US Constitution.

4.  The speech had no new ideas.  It was a laundry list of neo-conservative principles about making America stronger, safer, and so on.  As a friend of mine put it, “Nothing that I heard her say deviated in any way from her hawkish record of recommending bombing at every opportunity.”

And here is the grand finale:

Hillary Clinton reminds me of the grey leaders in the USSR before Gorbachev.  She’s like a Brezhnev or an Andropov. A cookie-cutter product of the system with no fresh ideas.

For many people who are leery of a Trump presidency, Hillary’s hawkish and colorless conformity to the Washington system is more than enough to qualify her.  If she wins the presidency, she will be much like Brezhnev and Andropov, senior apparatchiks of an empire in denial of its own precipitous decline.

Wow. Hammer, nail, head.

But according to Clinton supporters this was a brilliant speech, and it got very good reviews in a lot of the media. Rave reviews, says Business Insider. I’ve said before that she got lucky with Trump as an opponent. The polls don’t reflect it now, but she’s going to take him apart like a cooked crab. And media will have so much fun watching her do it she’ll get a pass on her own record and policies.

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History Challenge: Who Was the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate EVER?

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American History

I’m not asking who was the best POTUS, mind you. Just which candidate for the office had the most impressive resume. He wouldn’t have had to be elected, even.

I ask because of this exchange on Facebook, which I repeat here word for word.

Some Guy: Have you been listening to the media know-nothing pundits and Hillary Clinton detractors critical of her foreign policy speech, denouncing her lecture as more of an attack on Con man Trump’s total lack of any qualifications to be President.

Well, Any sane person would know she is correct, Trump is not even fit to visit the White House much less live there.

Hillary was outstanding and proved without any doubt that she is indeed the best qualified person to ever seek the Presidency.

Me://the best qualified person to ever seek the Presidency.// EVER seek the Presidency? (No sir, no cult of personality here, sir.) Seriously, her qualifications beat Trump’s by several miles, although you could say the same thing about an order of french fries. But best qualified person EVER? Don’t you think that claim is a tad overboard?

Another Person: No – her education and experience make her the best qualified candidate in history. That’s resume – not personal, partisan opinion.

Some Guy: Barbara, Who would you say was better qualified than Hillary and why????

Me:Just as an example, there was another POTUS who was a U.S. senator from New York and who was re-elected, but then resigned before the second term ended to become governor of New York. He also served as Secretary of State, and achieved some notable diplomatic successes. He also served a term as Vice President of the United States before being elected President. I’d say that guy was qualified up the wazoo. And that guy was Martin van Buren, one of our more mediocre presidents.

Some Guy:Okay, So what was his record for service to the community before he went into public office, anything close to Hillary’s involvement.

Me: Having beat the socks off you in the resume department already — he was an attorney with an active law practice in his early career, and then worked his way up in local and state politics before running for the U.S. senate. He was a “surrogate” or probate court attorney, then New York State attorney general, then a New York state senator. Clinton’s resume can’t hold a candle to this guy’s. But they didn’t do “community service” in the early 19th century.

Another Person: how does a mediocre president beat a candidate was on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action?

Worked on Senator Walter Mondale’s subcommittee researching migrant labor?

Was a professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law?

Is a former civil litigation attorney?

Served as the director of the Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law?

Was the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation which helps ensure everyone has equal access to justice under the law, despite inability afford it?

And first female partner at Rose Law Firm.

Co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families?

Was named twice as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal?

(Btw – such an honor is rarely bestowed upon criminals or incompetents. Just sayin.)

That her entire career has been spent as a strong advocate for families and solid track record includes leading a task force that reformed Arkansas’s education system as First Lady of Arkansas?

That – as FLOTUS – she was instrumental in the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence Act?

Or who – with her husband – has spent the years since she was FLOTUS – establishing the Clinton Foundation – a non profit whose mission is to help the poor and disadvantaged around the world realize their potential and build better lives.

They also work to improve global health, reduce preventable diseases, create economic opportunity and growth, help communities deal with the impact of climate change – and to increase opportunity for women and girls.

The Clinton Foundation is recognized and highly respected around the world and here in the US – even – grudgingly – by the GOTP -as a tireless and powerful advocate for the vulnerable.

It receives donations from

DONALD TRUMP

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Coca Cola Company

The Elton John Aids Foundation

Anheuser Busch

Hewlett Packard

The Kingdom of Norway

The Commonwealth of Australia

The Government of The Netherlands

The Government of Sweden

To name just a few…

Or who – as Secretary of State – has a solid track record in international relations and policy?

Played a key role in finding and taking down Bin Laden – and authored the agreement that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table for the deal that the entire P5+1 endorsed, along with most of the rest of the world?

Or who is respected and admired around the world – as this illustrates:

http://youtu.be/ECNQDqMoAjw

Don’t like her policies? Fine.

But anyone running around snarking about not trusting her, claiming she’s a RHINO – after 20+ years of being the target of relentless, hateful Republican bs – is either not paying attention or too dumb to vote.

Name ANYONE else – in EITHER party – with a resume even close to hers.

Just ONE.

Take all the time you need.

Me: Pad it all you like — and most of that is padding, especially the stuff about the Clinton Foundation — but Martin Van Buren’s resume at the time he became POTUS was a hell of a lot more impressive than Clinton’s. And his record as Secretary of State is a lot better, I’d say. No coup in Honduras, no stupid intervention in Libya. He did some good stuff that helped folks gain peace and prosperity. I assume you can google and find that for yourself. However, the Yale Law Review didn’t exist until after he died, and like most attorneys of his time he became an attorney through self-study and apprenticeship. It was a different world.

And my point, of course, is that while Van Buren’s resume was outstanding, he was a very middle-of-the-road POTUS who served only one term. And that was just one guy I picked at random.

Some Guy: Barbara, You just cited his professional record, good, but was he opposed to slavery, did he reach out to women, children, the middle-class and the poor or was he just another white male President who ignored the great sin of slavery and just went along to get along. Now, to me, any one who turned his/her back on human slavery can do no good, but you have a right to your heroes.

Me: I already said he was a mediocre POTUS. And he’s no hero of mine. I am just pointing out that, on paper, his resume at the time he became POTUS was simply outstanding. Successful lawyer, state senator, state attorney general, state governor, U.S. senator, U.S. secretary of state (and a pretty good one), vice president of the United States. Those are just the high points; there are some other jobs/appointments he had here and there as well. His political views, some of which which I consider fairly awful, are beside the point. We’re just talking qualifications — as (Another Person) said, “That’s resume – not personal, partisan opinion.”

The fact is, if you take the time to go back and look a the details of his many offices held and what he did in them, van Buren really did have an astonishing record of accomplishments before becoming one of the most average presidents in U.S. history.  (See his Wikipedia page)

Now, if you’re talking about a guy with a sterling background in doing charitable acitivism stuff, Herbert Hoover is your man. He was internationally known for his humanitarian relief efforts.  A great many other presidents have had amazing records of accomplishment before they became POTUS, which is sorta kinda how you become POTUS.  I’d have a hard time finding someone who was a total deadbeat and became POTUS, actually.

As I’ve said  before, this is cult of personality stuff. It’s not “normal.”

But who else had a kick-ass resume before becoming POTUS that beats Clinton’s?

Update: Thinking about it, Abraham Lincoln’s resume wasn’t that great. He’d been a lawyer and U.S. Representative. He’d been a militia captain in the Black Hawk Wars and said later most of the action he saw involved swatting mosquitoes. He got noticed because of his debates and speeches more than anything else. The guy was a slacker.

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The “Neos”: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism

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American History, conservatism, Democratic Party, liberalism and progressivism, Republican Party

As long as we’re defining terms — see Liberal, Neoliberal and Progressive: What Words Mean — here’s a really interesting article by Corey Robin called “When Neoliberalism Was Young: A Lookback on Clintonism before Clinton.”

Now, neoliberalism, of course, can mean a great many things, many of them associated with the right. But one of its meanings—arguably, in the United States, the most historically accurate—is the name that a small group of journalists, intellectuals, and politicians on the left gave to themselves in the late 1970s in order to register their distance from the traditional liberalism of the New Deal and the Great Society. The original neoliberals included, among others, Michael Kinsley, Charles Peters, James Fallows, Nicholas Lemann, Bill Bradley, Bruce Babbitt, Gary Hart, and Paul Tsongas. Sometimes called “Atari Democrats,” these were the men—and they were almost all men—who helped to remake American liberalism into neoliberalism, culminating in the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.

I confess I don’t remember hearing the term “neoliberal” before the Clinton era. This is from “A Neoliberal’s Manifesto” by Charles Peters, published in Washington Monthly, May 1983:

We still believe in liberty and justice for all, in mercy for the afflicted and help for the down and out. But we no longer automatically favor unions and big government or oppose the military and big business. Indeed, in our search for solutions that work, we have to distrust all automatic responses, liberal or conservative.

Third Way, anyone? I haven’t read it yet, but I understand that Peters and his Manifesto are called out in Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal. And not in a good way.

Robin continues,

In the hands of neoliberalism, it became fashionable to pit the interests of the poor not against the power of the wealthy but against the working class that had been made into a middle class by America’s unions. (We still see that kind of talk among today’s Democrats, particularly in debates around free trade, where it is always the unionized worker—never the well paid journalist or economist or corporate CEO—who is expected to make sacrifices on behalf of the global poor. Or among Hillary Clinton supporters, who leverage the interests of African American voters against the interests of white working-class voters, but never against the interests of capital.)

What comes through clearly in Robin’s piece, and also in this 2006 interview of Charles Peters by Ezra Klein (reading between the lines, anyway) is that the main thrust of neoliberalism was and is to throw the working class under the bus in favor of investors and entrepreneurs. The original neoliberals were, above all, anti-union, especially public sector unions. Weirdly, they seemed to think that union members had become too advantaged and were somehow hurting people on the lower rungs of the ladder. But then they also turned around and wanted Social Security to be means tested.

It’s difficult to make sense of what truly drives this contradiction, whereby one liberalism is criticized for supporting only one segment of the population while another liberalism is criticized for supporting all segments, including the poor.

It could be as simple as the belief that government should work on behalf of only the truly disadvantaged, leaving everyone else to the hands of the market. That that turned out to be a disaster for the truly disadvantaged—with no one besides themselves to speak up on behalf of anti-poverty programs, those programs proved all too easy to eliminate, not by a Republican but by a Democrat—seems not to have much troubled the sleep of neoliberalism. Indeed, in the current election, it is Hillary Clinton’s support for the 1994 crime bill rather than the 1996 welfare reform bill that has gotten the most attention, even though she proudly stated in her memoir that she not only supported the 1996 bill but rounded up votes for it.

The neoliberals were and are devoted to an ideal of pragmatism:

Note the disavowal of all conventional ideologies and beliefs, the affirmation of an open-minded pragmatism guided solely by a bracing commitment to what works. It’s a leitmotif of the entire manifesto: Everyone else is blinded by their emotional attachments to the ideas of the past. We, the heroic few, are willing to look upon reality as it is, to take up solutions from any side of the political spectrum, to disavow anything that smacks of ideological rigidity or partisan tribalism.

That Peters wound up embracing solutions in the piece that put him comfortably within the camp of GOP conservatism (he even makes a sop to school prayer) never seemed to disturb his serenity as a self-identified iconoclast. That was part of the neoliberal esprit de corps: a self-styled philosophical promiscuity married to a fairly conventional ideological fidelity.

Robin also discusses another self-identified neoliberal, Marty Peretz, who for many years was owner of The New Republic, another allegedly liberal publication. Robin points out that Peretz’s positions often seemed to be plucked from the Republican Party platform, including his adamant Zionism. Which allows us a nice segue into the other neos, the neoconservatives.

A little appreciated fact about neoconservatives is that the founders of the movement were mostly liberals and Democrats. Yes, liberals and Democrats. New Deal, Cold War Democrats. I understand a few of them were even ex-Trotskyites.

Neoconservatism began in the 1960s and 1970s in part as a reaction to the New Left, particularly the Marxist and antiwar factions of the New Left and the candidacy of George McGovern in 1972. They also opposed Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs even though they were supportive of the older New Deal programs.

Make of that what you will.

The core membership of the original neoconservatives were a group of Jewish intellectuals who worried the U.S. would grow weak on defense, particularly against the threat of Communism. This was not atypical of Cold War liberals. One not-Jewish founding neocon was Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, something of a prototype of the Cold War Democrat. He was a good New Dealer and supporter of unions, civil rights and social welfare programs. He was also pro-military buildup and was a big promoter of military action against Communism, such as the Vietnam War. A number of neocons have cited Scoop Jackson as an influence. These include two of  his former Senate aides, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. (See also Andrew O’Hehir’s comparison of Scoop Jackson and Hillary Clinton.)

By the 1980s, most neocons had become Republicans, inspired by the tall-in-the-saddle rhetoric of Ronald Reagan.  And as the threat of Global Communist Domination faded away, the neocons came to be obsessed with the threat of Global Islamic Domination, or something.

How do we define “neoconservative” now? I like this discussion by Jack Hunter in The American Conservative.

The “neocons” believe American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power—through vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement. Other nations’ problems invariably become our own because history and fate have designated America the world’s top authority.

Critics say the US cannot afford to be the world’s policeman. Neoconservatives not only say that we can but we must—and that we will cease to be America if we don’t. Writes Boston Globe neoconservative columnist Jeff Jacoby: “Our world needs a policeman. And whether most Americans like it or not, only their indispensable nation is fit for the job.” Neocon intellectual Max Boot says explicitly that the US should be the world’s policeman because we are the best policeman.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) heartily champions the neoconservative view. While virtually every other recognizably Tea Party congressman or senator opposes the Libyan intervention, Rubio believes the world’s top cop should be flashing its Sherriff’s badge more forcefully in Libya—and everywhere else. …

… Rubio’s flowery rhetoric is worth noting because neoconservatism has always been sold through the narrative of America’s “greatness” or “exceptionalism.” This is essentially the Republican Party’s version of the old liberal notion promoted by President Woodrow Wilson that it is America’s mission to “make the world safe for democracy.”

If you think about it, this really is an extension of older, pre-Vietnam liberal ideas about foreign policy. It goes back to the great Teddy Roosevelt, who wanted to make the U.S. a great global power and increase its influence and prestige in the world. It goes back to Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership in World War II. You could argue it has ties to the Truman Doctrine and John F. Kennedy’s attempts to push back Communism.

You could also argue that in neoconservatism the American exceptionalism thing has morphed, or maybe metastasized, into a caricature of itself. Instead of coming from a place of noble intentions, in the neocons it comes from a place of bigotry and fear. I’ve argued in the past that neoconservatism is pro-active isolationism, attempting to use force to spread American hegemony so the world won’t be so scary and foreign. This is nothing like the Roosevelts, or Truman, or JFK. But you could see how those earlier liberal presidents might have inspired it.

If, in the end, it sometimes seems the neolibs and the neocons are as much alike as different, it’s because they are both weeds that grew out of the same pot. so to speak. They both originated on the Left or Center-Left. Both movements were reacting to events in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Both movements moved right and either adapted Republican ideas while remaining in the Democratic Party (the neolibs) or else they just flat-out became Republicans (the neocons).

Somewhere in his seminal work The Vital Center, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr argued that political ideologies shouldn’t be thought of as just lying along one axle, from left to right. It’s more like a circle. Taken to extremes, extreme Left and extreme Right meet each other and end up in totalitarianism.  Similarly, I say that neoconservatism and neoliberalism are not at all polar opposites, but rather like two sides of the same coin. They aren’t identical, but neither are they all that different, and it’s not at all impossible for the same politician to be some of both.

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